Just then the boys heard a second-story window open, and saw Mr. Tucker’s head projecting from it.
Escape and flight.
Though the boys had made as little noise as possible, conversing in an undertone, they had been heard by Mrs. Tucker. Her husband, as was his custom, had gone to sleep; but Mrs. Tucker, who, during the day, had discovered the loss of ten cents from her bureau drawer in which she kept her savings, had been kept awake by mental trouble. Some of my readers may think so small a loss scarcely worth keeping awake for, but Mrs. Joe Tucker was a strictly economical and saving woman—some even called her penurious—and the loss of ten cents troubled her.
She would have laid it to one of “them paupers,” as she was wont contemptuously to refer to them, except that she never allowed one of them to enter the sacred precincts of her chamber.
A horrible thought entered her mind. Could it be Zeke, the boy whom she thought such a paragon, though no one else had been able to discover his virtues or attractions! She did not like to think of it, but it did occur to her that Zeke, the previous day, had asked her for ten cents, though he would not own the purpose for which he wanted it. The boy might have been tempted to take the money. At any rate, she would go and see.
Zeke slept in a small room adjoining. When his mother entered, with a candle in her hand, he was lying asleep, with his mouth wide open, and one arm dropped over the side of the bed.
Mrs. Tucker took a look at him, and saw that he was wrapped in slumber and unable to notice what she proposed to do. His clothes were thrown down carelessly on a chair near-by.
Mrs. Tucker searched first in the pockets of his pants, and, though she discovered a large variety of miscellaneous articles, “of no use to any one except the owner,” she didn’t discover any traces of the missing dime. She began to hope that he had not taken it, after all, although, in that case, the loss would continue to be shrouded in obscurity. But, on continuing her search, she discovered in one of the pockets of his vest a silver ten-cent piece.
Mrs. Tucker’s eyes flashed, partly with indignation at Zeke’s dishonesty, partly with joy at the recovery of the missing coin.
“I’ve found you out, you bad boy!” she said, in a low voice, shaking her fist at the sleeping boy. “I wouldn’t have believed that my Zeke would have robbed his own mother. We must have a reckoning to-morrow.”
She was half-inclined to wake Zeke up and charge him with his crime, confronting him with the evidence of it which she had just discovered; but on second thoughts she decided that she might as well let him sleep, as the next day would do just as well.
Poor Zeke! he was not guilty, after all, though whether his honesty was strict enough to resist a powerful temptation, I am not sure.